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Brush fire gets to roof of historic Fort De Soto

Monday night, Fort De Soto caught fire. It was a brush fire, the cause undetermined and likely to stay that way.

Brush fires are hard, said Larry Thompson, captain of the Lealman Fire District. They are messy and difficult to put out. If he had to choose between fighting a fire in a crowded warehouse full of hazardous chemicals, or the wildfires of California, Thompson says he would stay put east.

But this one was not so bad.

By the numbers: The call came in at 7 p.m. It took them about 10 minutes to get there. There were 14 units, 30 men and women and at least 1,000 feet of hose in all. The fort offers a view, a good view, of the sunset over the gulf, and so 10 or 15 people who had hoped to see something beautiful that night had to be sent away.

The fire covered about 5,000 square feet of grass, palm trees and wild flowers on the roof of the fort. It took about half an hour to put out. The grass and wild flowers were gone and the trees were singed. There was also a cactus, which was fine.

Brush fires are manpower-intensive, Thompson says: "It's dirty work, all shovels and flappers and hoses." The historic fort had cannons to protect it but is 1,000 feet from the nearest fire hydrant. Hoses were extended and hauled up the steps.

There was also the anxiety of it.

"It is not a normal location," said Thompson. "It is a historic site."

But Fort De Soto was fine. There was no need to close the park. No one was injured and the concrete, under the dirt, was untouched.

"I thought it was going to be more than this," said Sydney Evans, 18, who came to watch the sunset with her boyfriend.

Contact Lisa Gartner at lgartner@tampabay.com.

Brush fire gets to roof of historic Fort De Soto 05/12/14 [Last modified: Tuesday, May 13, 2014 12:06am]
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